Preservation: How and What?

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The doctrine of preservation of the Scriptures has been hotly debated in recent years. Much has been written and said, but most of the rhetoric on the subject has been closely connected to defending or rejecting one view or another on the translation issue. The result has often been that important foundational questions have been overlooked in a rush to get to conclusion A or B in the translation debate.

Among the neglected questions are these: (1) what process did God say He would use to preserve His word and (2) what form did He say that preserved word would take? Both of these are subsets of another neglected question: What does Scripture actually claim (and not claim) about it’s own preservation?

The questions of process (“how”) and form (“what”) are at the heart of the controversy because nobody (among fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals) denies that the word has, and will, endure. The question of what Scripture actually claims is critical as well, for multiple reasons. For one, only a clear answer to that question can put us on the right track to answering the others.

Two general schools of thought exist regarding the how and what of preservation.

Discrete preservation

One set of views on the how and what of preservation holds that the word must be preserved in a form that is accessible and identifiable with certainty as the preserved form. In other words, preservation means there is an original language text one can identify as “the preserved text.” In most cases, discrete preservationists believe this must also extend to a translation—one existing (or future) translation in each language, which we can identify as “the preserved translation.”

A missionary I spoke with on the subject a few years ago offered the following observations:

I believe since we do not have a copy of the originals, and Scripture mentions God would preserve His word, we have to have His word in a translation. I believe the only translation that was preserved in the English language is the translation coming from the Textus Receptus; the King James Bible.

A more detailed and incisive variation of the view is expressed in this Bible college doctrinal statement:1

We believe … that the King James Bible is God’s preserved word in English. We reject any attempt to correct it with the Greek critical text as is done in the Revised Standard Version, New International Version, and the New King James Version.

We believe … that God’s Word was spread around the world by the Reformation Era Bibles and Bible translations made from them during the beginning of the modern missions movement (1700’s and early 1800’s). Tragically, for nearly two hundred years, the United Bible Society … has tried to replace these Received Text Bibles with corrupt translations.

… the Word of God in Spanish is to be found in the Reformation era 1602 Valera Bible and properly done revisions …

Book length cases for word perfect preservation in discrete form are now available as well (for example, Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture edited by Kent Brandenburg, 2003) in addition to numerous articles and blog posts on the Web.2

Dispersed preservation

Another approach to the how and what of preservation emphasizes the challenge we face in looking for answers to preservation questions. For example, the writers of Bible Preservation and the Providence of God offer the following caution:

What is less clear is how God is preserving the Bible. Though the Bible describes a little of the process of inspiration, it does not describe in detail the process of preservation. Since God also chose in His providence not to preserve the autographs [originals], it takes more effort to understand the process. (Schnaiter and Tagliapietra, 33)

In the chapters that follow, Schnaiter and Tagliapietra detail their view of the process and form of preservation. In an appendix, Schnaiter summarizes as follows:

I believe that the presence of copyists’ errors or translator’s errors or publishers’ errors in every copy of the New Testament … justifies the conclusion that God has not preserved the precise wording of the text … in any particular manuscript or copy or translation, but that He has indeed preserved both wording and sense. The sense is preserved in every copy since each is generally unaffected by the wording variations. (Schnaiter and Tagliapietra, 285. Emphasis original.)3

James White describes a similarly complex process and form of preservation:

You see, if readings could just “disappear” without a trace, we would have to face the fact that the original reading may have “fallen through the cracks” as well. But the tenacity of the New Testament text, while forcing us to deal with textual variants, also provides us with the assurance that our work is not in vain. One of those variant readings is indeed the original. (White, 48)

To these writers, and many others, preservation is not something God does by maintaining a singular certainly-identifiable form, but rather, something He has done (and is doing) in a dispersed way in the manuscripts He has kept from extinction.

The Bible on preservation

To most of us the burning question is, “What does the Bible itself say about its preservation?” In particular, what does the Bible reveal about God’s preservation process and what does it reveal about the form in which His preserved word will reach His people?

Seven passages speak most directly and clearly about the enduring nature of God’s word. Those who believe God has preserved His word in each language in one translation based on the proper Greek text often cite one or more of these in support of their view. For summary purposes I list them here with brief excerpts (in the KJV).

  • Psalm 119:89 “forever … thy word is settled in heaven”
  • Psalm 119:152 “thy testimonies … thou hast founded them forever”
  • 1 Peter 1:24-25 “the word of the Lord endureth for ever”
  • Psalm 12:6-7 “thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever”
  • Psalm 119:160 “every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever”
  • Matthew 24:35 “my words shall not pass away”
  • Matthew 5:18 “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass”

Analysis

In Psalm 119:89 we have probably the least helpful passage of the seven for discerning the how and what of preservation on earth. The Psalmist’s goal is to magnify the Lord by pointing out that His word is natsav, firmly fixed and unchanging, just as God Himself is. But the location is “in heaven.” Similarly, Psalm 119:152 reveals that God’s word is “founded” (yacad) forever. The idea again is a firm (and by implication, unmoving) placing. But we do not gain any information as to what we should expect to be able to hold in our hands and read.

Psalm 12:6-7 are a special case because what is meant by “them” in “preserve them” has often been debated. However, if we grant for the sake of argument that “them” refers to God’s “words” (in v.6), what we have again, is a promise that the words of God will not be destroyed by any evil generation (“from this generation” refers to the idle speakers, flatterers and oppressors described in 12:1-5). We do not have a promise here that the words will be accessible or identifiable with certainty.

In 1 Peter 1:24-25 and Psalm 119:160, however, we gain—by inference—a little information about God’s preservation of His word for readers. Peter describes the contrast between the short and frail lives of mortals and the eternally enduring word of God, quoting from Isaiah 40:8. The psalmist indicates that what will endure is comprehensive: not one of God’s judgments will be lost. But it’s the context of these two passages that is most helpful. In both texts, part of the point seems to be that God’s word endures for us. It endures in some form believers will be able to access from generation to generation.

With Matthew 24:35, we gain still more information. Here Jesus affirms that His own words will never pass away. And, though we have no details concerning the form or process of their preservation, we do have a hint regarding the location of their preservation. “Pass away” translates the Greek parerchomai, meaning a passing by or passing from. Jesus’ implication is that His words will continue to exist in the world where His followers live.

Jots and tittles

Matthew 5:18 might be the most important passage on the subject. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assures His listeners that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass until … ” The statement actually includes two conditions, two “untils”: until heaven and earth pass away and until all (the law) is fulfilled. Here again, we learn more about what God will preserve: every iota and keraia, every smallest letter and smallest stroke. The verb parerchomai (pass from) occurs again indicating that the words will be preserved here below.

What has been promised

Discrete preservationists see in these passages a promise that every “jot and tittle” of Scripture will be available to every generation in a certainly-recognizable, written form. That is, believers of every age will be able to point to a copy and say with certainty, “Every jot and tittle is right here.” But there are several reasons to believe this is not what has been promised:

  1. The passages do not actually say there will be a recognized form with every jot and tittle perfectly preserved.
  2. Neither Jesus nor the other speakers or writers in these passages say that the word will be accessible for “every generation.” Even if a letter-perfect form of God’s word could be identified with certainty, the promises do not preclude the possibility that this form could be lost for some generations then recovered again (the fact that something has not passed away does not mean we must know exactly where it is.)
  3. None of those who heard these promises when they were given could point to a written form they knew to contain every preserved jot and tittle. That is, already multiple copies existed, and variations among them existed—not only in jots and tittles but (by Jesus’ day) in whole words. (When Jesus spoke, the Scriptures available were hand made copies of the Hebrew OT and Greek versions of the OT known collectively as the Septuagint).

Conclusions

A close examination of what Scripture claims about its own preservation reveals that God’s word is preserved forever independently of anyone’s access to it (“in heaven”). This examination also reveals, however, that every word—even every letter—will always be preserved, and at least potentially accessible, on the earth. Scripture does not claim, however, that its availability in word-perfect form will be without interruption or that God’s people will always be able to identify it with certainty. There is nothing close to a promise that a word-perfect translation of such a text will exist in English or any other language. (If we have no promise that the Scriptures will be translated at all we cannot possibly have any promises about the quality of translations.)

Some will object that if we cannot identify the perfectly preserved text or translation, we do not have preservation in any meaningful sense. But this argument is a distraction from facts we cannot escape. Whether or not we like the implications of what Scripture says (and doesn’t say), the Bible still says only what it says—no more and no less.

Case-making

One additional distinction is important here. The fact that we have not been promised a certainly-identifiable, perfect text or translation does not prove that we are without one. What that fact does do, however, is point the way to what kind of case must be made for a perfectly preserved text or translation. Such a case must consist of inferences from Scripture, historical data, other external evidence, and reasoning from these. In short, just as the case for preservation “somewhere in the manuscripts” derives from the silence of Scripture plus external data, the case for perfect preservation must also be made by appealing to external data. Divine authority cannot be properly claimed for either position.

Works Cited

Schnaiter, Sam, and Ron Tagliapietra. Bible Preservation and the Providence of God. Self published. Xlibris Corp., 2003.

White, James. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Minneapolis. Bethany House Publishers, 1995.

Notes

1 I regret that I can no longer identify the source of this quotation. Either I am misremembering the college that posted the statement or they have since replaced it with something more conciliatory. In any case, the view they described is not unique to them.

2 Examples include “The Modern Texts and Versions Have Produced the Fruit of Theological Liberalism,” “Reasoned Preservation of Scripture, “A Sniff Test for the History of Preservation of Scripture,” “Biblical Preservation: B. B. Warfield and the Reformation Doctrine of the Providential Preservation of the Biblical Text,” and many, many more.

3 In the book, the emphasis in this paragraph is in all caps rather than italics, probably because the section is a response to correspondence in which all caps occur frequently in reference to Schnaiter’s views.


Aaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and served in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.

Special discussion guidelines

Because the preservation question is intertwined with the translations controversy, and discussions on the topic of translations and KJVO have a strong tendency to quickly degenerate into mudslinging, we're going to give this thread "special handling."

  1. Please try to keep discussion connected to the preservation question.
  2. Please avoid broad characterizations of one side or the other of the translation debate. These characterizations aren't helpful, regardless of how true they might be. They do not change anyone's thinking on the subject (It's like politics. Saying "Conservatives are just greedy corporate stooges" or "Liberals are sentimental idiots" never persuaded a single Conservative or Liberal to change his point of view!)
  3. Since we have a forum for [URL=http://sharperiron.org/sharperiron-forums/english-bible-text-debate ]English translation debate[/URL ], we'll be quicker on the "comments closed" button for this thread than we would be for most. We're looking for that rarest of all birds: a calm, irenic, issues-focused (rather than people-focused), conversation about Bible preservation and things related.
  4. OK... after all that, please don't be scared to post! Wink

You are a brave man Aaron

I have been processing this issue in my mind for a while now, and have not come to any firm conclusions. Both sides make good points.

One thing I have observed though is that the "debate" is not in the spirit of "come on guys, this is a very important topic with huge implications, lets sit down and try to resolve it. Here's what I believe, what do think?" I have a hard time clearing away the nastiness and partisanship to find the truth. One side tends to be shrill and the other side doesn't seem to take some of the other side's valid concerns seriously.

Well, I take that back, there are more than two sides in this debate, which is perhaps why it is so complicated.

Thanks for the article Aaron, and the tone in which it was presented.

Jason E. Schaitel MCP

co-founder FrancisSchaefferStudies.org

student at Veritas School of Theology

Good Stuff

I also appreciate the stab that Aaron is taking to discuss (amiably) this topic. I contacted him to get some information on the first footnote, and apparently although he has the original documentation with the quote, the particular school that he's referring to has since either modified that statement or has changed their position, so he's not sure about which school it is, and the paper that had the quote was separated from the school's name. Since that's the case, I agree with him that it would not be fair to put the name of the school (if he is indeed remembering the school correctly) out in public.

I think, Schaitel, that a lot of this debate got off on the wrong foot because it was a knee jerk reaction to the flood of new translations coming on the market in the '60s-'70s [although the roots for it began in perhaps the late '40s or early '50s, according to a doctoral thesis I read on it in Grad School ]. Rather than discussing "How has God preserved His Word?", the reply was a "The King James is God's Word and all the rest are bad copies" (or something like it) without an serious evaluation as to where the eventual consequences of where that position would lead the holders; perhaps it was just a "Hey, I've grown up on the KJV, love it, use it, and don't see any need to replace it" mentality either. I don't know.

I'm looking forward to the day where the issue is dead and has a silver stake in its' heart, so we don't need to discuss the KJV aspect of it anymore. I fear, though, that maybe that's a day that only my great great great great great grandkids will see. Preservation, of course, is a CRITICAL doctrine, and we all have to work through that at some point.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Great post, Aaron

I think this is a great summary of the issue, Aaron. Thanks for posting this. The discrete view (I had to look up that term, btw), would argue (obviously) that there is more from the Bible to consider. They'd point out Is. 59:21, which intimates the word will be in the mouth of God's people. They would also reason from passages like Matt. 4:4 that Christians have to have the entire Word (each and every word) available and accessible, else we can't possibly live the Christian life we need to. If we can only live by God's Word, God is obligated to provide that Word, the reasoning would go.

Ultimately I think we end up reading our view into Scripture, to some degree, on either side of this issue. It's important to stop and hear what Scripture itself says, and your post is great at helping us do that. In addition, I'd say the idea of "word" being an audible word from God, His message or plans is also important. In our age of printed Bibles on every shelf and in every store, we think of "word" as "book" or "Bible". But often in Scripture that is not what is meant by the term. If you look in Acts the term often refers to the message of the Gospel. The "Word" spreads, grows and accomplishes things. Of course the Bible is living, but it is the message of the Gospel itself that actually accomplishes this. 1 Pet. 1 even defines "word" there as "the gospel preached to you". William Combs makes this point in his excellent article on preservation (available online [URL=http://www.dbts.edu/journals/2000/combs.pdf ]here[/URL ]).

I think it is really helpful to see how Scripture itself handles the matter of textual variations and quotations. Scripture often gives parallel accounts that are direct quotations that are different in exact word order and other particulars. Moses recounts the history of Israel in Deuteronomy, and he quotes what he said at various times in the history. If you compare what Exodus has for Moses' statement, it often does not match up with Deuteronomy's account. The synoptic Gospels and other sections of the New Testament also provide examples of one account given to us in more than one form. Then later passages in the Bible quote earlier ones. The prophets quote from the Pentateuch, and the NT epistles and Gospels quote from the OT. These quotes reveal that often loose quotations are considered equivalent and as authoritative as the exact word-by-word original Scripture. This is really important, because this quality of the Bible must be allowed to influence how we think about differences among manuscripts and between various Bible versions. Are word differences a really big deal? Well, how does the Bible exemplify what we should think about word differences? Is authority tied to a specific exact quotation or rendering of the Word, or is it tied to the nature of the quotation (quoting from God's word)? -- These kinds of observations and questions are important for those who would consider Scripture's witness in relation to the Bible controversies of today.

Thanks again for the post. I'll be linking to it from our group [URL=http://kjvodebate.wordpress.com/ KJV Only Debate blog[/URL ].

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Word and words

One exegetical detail that sometimes gets lost in these debates is the meaning of God's "word." Due to our contemporary (and correct) habit of referring to the Bible as "God's Word," the tendency is to assume that whenever we see a reference to "the word of God" or "your word," it is a reference to the Bible, or the portion of Scripture complete at this time. I'll have to run through some resources for confirmation, but I'm pretty sure that especially in the OT, the use is many times rather referring to specific statements and promises of God.

An example of this evangelical tendency is Isaiah 55:11. Young's commentary, for example, spends that portion almost exclusively in discussing the divine power of the Bible, abstracted from the immediate context. Steveson has a footnote explaining how this passage is still true even when Christians don't always see "fruit" from their evangelistic labors. Now, I'm all for healthy sytematic theology, but I think the NET Bible got this right:

Quote:
"In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend."

32 )tn Heb "so is the word which goes out from my mouth, it does not return to empty." "Word" refers here to divine promises, like the ones made just prior to and after this (see vv. Isa 55:12-13).

33 )sn Verses 8–11 focus on the reliability of the divine word and support the promises before (vv. 3–5) and after (vv. 12–13) this. Israel can be certain that repentance will bring forgiveness and a new covenantal relationship because God's promises are reliable. In contrast to human plans (or "thoughts"), which are destined to fail (Ps 94:11) apart from divine approval (Prov 19:21), and human deeds (or "ways"), which are evil and lead to destruction (Prov 1:15–19; 3:31–33; 4:19), God's plans are realized and his deeds accomplish something positive.

Errors similar to this one perennially dog discussions of preservation.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Good Point, Bob!

Bob Hayton wrote:
I think it is really helpful to see how Scripture itself handles the matter of textual variations and quotations. Scripture often gives parallel accounts that are direct quotations that are different in exact word order and other particulars. Moses recounts the history of Israel in Deuteronomy, and he quotes what he said at various times in the history. If you compare what Exodus has for Moses' statement, it often does not match up with Deuteronomy's account. The synoptic Gospels and other sections of the New Testament also provide examples of one account given to us in more than one form. Then later passages in the Bible quote earlier ones. The prophets quote from the Pentateuch, and the NT epistles and Gospels quote from the OT. These quotes reveal that often loose quotations are considered equivalent and as authoritative as the exact word-by-word original Scripture.

Bob, I am SO glad you brought that up. One of the reasons why I wound up where I did on the topic of preservation is that I noticed this as well. When Jesus got up and quoted the Isaiah passage in the synagogue, He used the scroll that they had and didn't correct it or argue over it's veracity. He took the scroll that they had, used it as the basis for His sermon, and sat down. Here's the passage that I'm referring to:
Luke 4:16-28 wrote:
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

That, combined with the fact that Paul gives instruction for his epistles to be read in all the churches, makes me believe that the power of the Word isn't necessarily in each individual printed copy - but in the power of the Holy Spirit to use it for correction, reproof, and correction as we study, memorize, and cherish it. That doesn't mean we can all use whatever we want, but that it is important not to get tied up in whether or not the ___________ text type is best; after all, there weren't different text types in Paul's day...just various copies, made as means were made available, and whatever was memorized. And not all of those sayings and re-copies would be identical - yet that was not a problem for the church. What is the more needful thing is to communicate the Truth in God's Word to all people - saved and nonsaved.

I would rather have the people in my church reading 5 different Bible Translations for their Bible Study and each getting something from it than have everyone studying from the NKJV [for example ] and struggling to make sense of it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Passages

Bob,
I appreciate the additional passages you mentioned. It's probably evident that the article is a revisit to a topic I dug into quite a while ago... and I'm not completely caught up with what's been going on since then. The sources I was looking at the time were very difficult to extract key texts from because there was a great deal of other kinds of argumentation going on all around and the Scripture was sort of random in with the rest.
I'm sure if I had a copy of K. Brandenburg's book on the subject, I'd have another bunch of passages to look closely at.
But so far, what I've seen tends to be more of the same kind of data just multiplied... and 500 verses that do not promise a written certainly-identifiable form say no more than 5 verses that do not promise it.

As for the two you mentioned, I'll plan to take a closer look. Off hand they appear to be more about what we are obligated to do with what we have rather than details about what we will have and we'll get it.

Appreciate the observations about "word" also. We do forget that until the movable type printing press, few believers had their own Bibles. And even after that entire Bibles were pretty expensive until the steam powered press. So, in the 16th century nobody was really asking "Can I call what I have in my hand the perfectly preserved word of God?... as opposed to this other version over there?" Almost nobody. They didn't have anything in their hand!

And at the time of Erasmus, manuscripts were scattered, hard to obtain and few were complete.
Just a bit of perspective. The debate we have today would just not make sense during the Reformation or before.

Got to rambling there... Charlie: appreciate your point about word as something spoken. Further back we go, the more "word" was repeated by mouth precisely because of the lack of availability of written forms (that and--far back enough--the canon not being completed)

What if...?

What if some archaeologist digging around in Turkey or Rome or Jerusalem finds a well preserved manuscript dating solidly to, say, 2nd century, that matches TR perfectly? Of course, you'd have to say "Which TR?" but let's suppose it perfectly matches what Erasmus settled on, even with the portions reverse engineered from the Vulgate. What does it do to the debate?

Personally, I think I'd still say "We don't have a promise of a discrete word perfect text or translation we can certainly identify" but I'd very inclined to say "Based on external evidence, I think we have a word perfect preserved text." I'd still have to say "I think," because what if they find an older one two weeks later that is more along the lines of Sinaiticus or Vaticanus? External evidence is like that. Never know what might turn up.

Luke 4

Jay,

It's funny you bring up Luke 4. That was the main passage on my mind. Here is a simple chart comparing the OT, LXX and NT at that passage:
[img ]http://fundyreformed.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/lxx2.jpg[/img ]
Here are a few conclusions of observing that Jesus read out of a scroll. Luke gives us what was in the scroll, not the words of Jesus at this point. He says Jesus read where it was written.....

Quote:
1) a synagogue Jesus attended did not have a proper KJV Only approved Bible.

2) Jesus felt it was fine to use such a Bible.

3) God inspired Luke to quote from said Bible, with no implications in Luke’s gospel indicating that there was anything wrong with such a Bible.

4a) Concluding from this, we could say a translation that poorly captures the sense of the original text, is still a Bible worthy of use.

4b) And another conclusion could be that obeying the message of Scripture is more important than stressing over its exact wording.

4c) A third potential conclusion would be that the Masoretic text only approximates the Hebrew original, and the LXX and other translations help us get closer to the readings that were in use and used by Jesus and his Apostles in NT times.


(see further discussion on Luke 4 in a blog debate starting [URL=http://kjvodebate.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/king-james-only-believers-and... ]here[/URL ], if you are interested for more. I don't want to bog down the discussion of Aaron's article here)

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

My short post became a long one, sorry.

Two must reads for some comprehension of this subject are: 1. "King James Onlyism, A New sect," James D. Price; 2. "In The Beginning, The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture," Alister McGrath.

James Price was Executive Editor and Chairman of the Executive Review Committee of the New King James Version. He has a PHD from Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Languages. He has taught for over 25 years.

Alister McGrath is Principle of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and Professor of Historical Theology. A world renown historian.

It would be difficult to maintain the KJVO or KJVP position after digesting the information provided in these two excellently researched books.

The heart of this issue is the subject of preservation as Aaron has pointed out. The problem is the process of historiography. How do we know history and what are the facts of history?

The problem is that beginning with David Otis Fuller in the 1970s, there have been differences in the facts presented regarding preservation history involving textual criticism. We who are not textual critic scholars often fail to grasp our lack of knowledge and our need to be able to recognize scholars who have spent their lives on the subject and the research methodology. We must accept the facts of others who have done the first hand research. Some Pastors have attempted to become textual and translation experts overnight and write a book on the subject. This has contributed to the rise and perpetuation of unsupported historical facts and concepts.

God has evidently allowed the preservation evidence to be part of the normal process of history and historiography. Perhaps this is so because it keeps the historical facts of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as that which stands at the forefront of factual and provable human history. The original historical documents are verifiable based on the massive historical data from manuscripts, versions, and writings of early fathers. This places Christianity within the arena of the normal process of human history and historical research.. It can be asserted that the evidence of the historical facts of the NT stands within the normal common law legal rules of evidence in which multiple duplicated documents, of various sources, may be presented to prove the content and facts of a prior document not now available due it being destroyed. Such evidence is allowed especially when the original documents were destroyed through no fault of those seeking to rely on such evidence. Copies may be presented. If handwritten, multiple copies may be compared.
However, if one were to claim that documents can be relied upon to be conveying accurate history because the documents are the subject of a special divine intervention that has preserved every word, then logically the person or force behind that special intervention act would need to testify as to its occurrence, His ability to do such a thing, and which exact document or documents have been so preserved to exactly represent the destroyed original. Absent the personal testimony of the divine preserver, those seeking the truth of the original document need to then go back and resort to using all the documentary evidence available. They then need to evaluate, prioritize, and collate the evidence within the realm of the human historiography process. I find no statement from the divine preserver pointing to any set of documents, or translated version, as that which has His special intervening divine preservation. Absent that, it all becomes human evaluation, but evaluation that becomes convincing based on the massive weight of historical evidence.

Christianity is Christ. The coming, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are purported to have occurred in real human history with meaning for all human existence and history. Christianity must therefore stand within the reality of human life and history. The true God has promised to preserve His word. However, the promises of preservation, that are themselves seen in alleged preserved documents, give promise of substance being preserved without specificity as to exact sources to look to find that preservation. This puts preservation outside of the voice and revelation of God as we seek that preserved word. Fortunately the documentary evidence, and verifiable human textual process, leaves us with a massive amount of historical evidence. At the end of the process we can say that the substance of God's words to men has been preserved. No doctrine is in doubt due to the lack of the preservation of the substance. God has kept His promises.

The implications of an alternative method, which seeks to confirm preservation apart from a historical evidential stream, is that God has intervened in history and enlightened us to certain sources, or a translation, that have his supernatural care apart from others like sources and translations .However we cannot look within the revelation of scripture for that which points with specificity to such sources, so we look to outside scriptural evidence and seek to put together such a truth. In so doing some claim to arrive at a doctrine from God concerning His word without a word from God to support that doctrine. The doctrine is derived from our human reasoning concerning facts which are known only by historical human analysis. So we have a plethora of arguments about the character and belief of some textual critics, and the different facts that may have been involved in textual history and the making of modern translations. All this to prove an alleged divine doctrine without one divine word on the subject. Many Bible colleges and churches have a doctrinal statement that includes the assertion of the KJV being the preserved word or God for the English language or other words to that effect. Many of these list various scriptures after each article of their statement giving scriptural evidence for their belief. However, no one lists a scripture that specifies a textual type, certain manuscripts, or a translation. They assert a doctrine, stand behind it as from God, but never cite a word from God supporting their choice of textual history or translation.

Aaron has rightly pointed out the heart of the KJVO debate. It is preservation. They acknowledge this. It is a preservation view asserted as a divine "doctrine" of preservation. These recent KJVO doctrinal assertions regarding preservation are new. By their own admission, this is a new doctrine that arose in the 1970s. For certain reasons I will not go into possible reasons it has spread, mostly among Independent Fundamental Baptists of a certain type. This is a doctrinal assertion. It is a doctrinal assertion that allows for divine superintendence of human processes to the same degree as original inspiration. It is an effort to have divine infallibility moved past the Apostolic approval and inscripturation to other men of much later history. Such a doctrine becomes similar to a doctrine of later divine intervention with additional revelation.

A new book on this subject asserts the KJVO position but calls for a more civil tone among those who differ. The book is "A More Sure Word, Which Bible can you trust," by R.B. Oullette, a Michigan Pastor. It has a forward by Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist Church and President of West Coast Baptist College. It is certainly good to see them desiring a less caustic atmosphere in the discussion. The book acknowledges that this issue is recent and arose in the 1970s. However, it is disheartening to see the same method of argumentation and attacks that are the same in obvious factual errors. The book indicates a lack of awareness of well established facts of textual history. It does not even understand what the so called "Textus Receptus is or its sources. This appears to be typical of our problems with regard to presented historical facts on this subject. The author then elevates his historical conclusion to the level of a divine doctrine. This is what makes the issue involve often passionate argument, and rightly so! The Doctrine of truth in God's word is important.

Good thoughts, Bob T.

Great thoughts on this. I appreciated how Kevin Bauder made a similar conclusion in the book he co-edited on the topic (One Bible Only? Examining the Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible [Kregel ]). It really is a big deal to create a doctrine without a Scriptural warrant.

As to Chappell's endorsement of Oullette's irenic book, I find that somewhat ironic. Chappell's college requires its graduates to sign a pledge that if they ever change their beliefs in the KJB, that they mail their diploma back to the school. I'm not sure how that isn't quite caustic!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer wrote: What if

Aaron Blumer wrote:
What if some archaeologist digging around in Turkey or Rome or Jerusalem finds a well preserved manuscript dating solidly to, say, 2nd century, that matches TR perfectly? Of course, you'd have to say "Which TR?" but let's suppose it perfectly matches what Erasmus settled on, even with the portions reverse engineered from the Vulgate. What does it do to the debate?

Personally, I think I'd still say "We don't have a promise of a discrete word perfect text or translation we can certainly identify" but I'd very inclined to say "Based on external evidence, I think we have a word perfect preserved text." I'd still have to say "I think," because what if they find an older one two weeks later that is more along the lines of Sinaiticus or Vaticanus? External evidence is like that. Never know what might turn up.


I would agree, Aaron. We are bound to be honest in dealing with the evidence. In God's providence we have a lot of evidence and new finds largely strengthen the overall conclusions. For instance, Tregelles, the conservative Bible believing textual critic (some will say that's an oxymoron, I know...), came to a similar conclusion on passages like 1 Tim. 3:16, 1 John 5:7 and others before the printing of Vaticanus and the discovery of Sinaiticus (see [URL=http://www.bible-researcher.com/dogma.html this article[/URL ]). The conclusions of Westcott and Hort have been reinforced by the new papyrii that have been unearthed (like P66 and P75).

I say this and then note somewhat humorously that the NKJV is the default translation of Sharper Iron. So 1 John 5:7 looks different there than in my ESV Smile Fundamentalists sometimes don't like to ruffle feathers much....

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

clarification

Bob Hayton wrote:
As to Chappell's endorsement of Oullette's irenic book, I find that somewhat ironic. Chappell's college requires its graduates to sign a pledge that if they ever change their beliefs in the KJB, that they mail their diploma back to the school. I'm not sure how that isn't quite caustic!

Clarification was provided to me on this. The official statement that must be upheld by graduates is:
Quote:
That the Bible is the fully verbally inspired Word of God, and that God has preserved His Word in the King James Version for the English speaking people.

There is some room in that statement for variations from their official view. It still does go out of its way to uphold the KJV, but I wanted to add this clarification.

Thanks,

Bob

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Is there any other ways of looking at this question?

It seems to me like we end up going over and over the same territory, to some degree.
I want to propose a different way of looking at the question.
When various councils got together to decide which books would be in the canon, they did not invite the "textual scholars" or seek for the most ancient texts. Not to say that those things are wrong, but maybe we need to look for different criteria to decide this question. Maybe usage, preponderance of texts, etc. are of more value than previously considered. I am not saying all this because I have a particularly strong point of view on the question, but I just don't know if we are going about all this the right way.

usage...

Steve,

Good point. Usage of God's people is an important point. I know some who make a case from the Bible that God's people accept God's word, and they would reject spurious text forms as assuredly as they would reject spurious books. I can agree with that in principle, but when you apply it to the text debate it becomes more difficult. Printing first came into prominence at the time the TR was released in a hasty manner. Available manuscripts were used, and from this the first available vulgar translations (translations into the common tongue) were made. German, French, English Bibles and more came on the scene.

But if we go back further than this time frame, we are back into history and textual history at that. What did God's people use in Egypt, Spain, Rome or Antioch at the times from A.D. 100 to 1400? That matter is up for debate and textual scholars and manuscripts have a big role in answering that question. Prior to the Reformation, in the West the Vulgate was accepted by almost all (John Wycliffe translated his English Bible from this) as the authoritative text. Prior to that was the Old Latin and what we now know as the Western Text. In the East and North Africa this is a different story. The evidence was destroyed en masse by the invading Islamic armies.

Going back to the Reformation, they realized the Greek was better than the Latin. But they didn't have many available Greek manuscripts at the time. Did the people of God use the best available texts at their disposal, or did they purposely reject other manuscripts by using the current text of the day? Scholars at that time already began the process of comparing manuscripts, and leading church leaders did not accept the TR in its entirety as perfect. Luther rejected 1 Jn. 5:7 which Erasmus added in a later version of his text although he clearly said in his notes he doubted its genuineness. Calvin and Turretin also discussed the textual merits of various texts, as did later exegetes.

So yes, church history does weigh heavily in this debate. But it is not an easy matter to find and apply the judgment of history.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

NKJVO

Quote:
I say this and then note somewhat humorously that the NKJV is the default translation of Sharper Iron. So...

Bob, I'm NKJVO so don't knock my translation. Wink

Actually, NKJV is the default for the Reftagger options, but the original default was NIV and I couldn't have that! But you can set your personal pref. in your profile if you want something else... I think you know that but figured I'd post for the benefit of any who haven't discovered that.
(But I guess non-members are stuck w/NKJV... might want to rethink that)

Also @Bob: when are you going publish your book on the subject? Sounds like you must have a terabyte of stuff on it.

Steve, I'm interested in your idea... can you elaborate more on what this might look like in our own day?

There are so many other good

There are so many other good books on the topic. I do want to write more on it some day. But for now I'm a busy father of four girls ages 6 and under....

I think the NKJV is a fine translation, and appropriate given the audience of Sharper Iron too. I was just taking a stab at some humor....

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

How could this work today?

The trouble is that today getting people to standardize would be super-complicated in some ways due to all the fragmentation of today's audiences. What was different in earlier times was the ability to have a catholic (with a small "c") group that could meet and speak with some credibility and the followers in general would get behind it. I suppose smaller groups or fellowships do this that are KJVO, for example.
Could a fellowship and/or denomination choose a preferred version at least? Or would we cause more fragmentation by even bringing it up? I'd just as soon not bring it up in most fellowship or denominational settings because I think (within a narrow range that I'm assuming serious Christians would think credible) English Bible versions or even preferred Greek texts are generally unworthy of splitting over. It seems to me that in earlier days church was able to reach consensus based on what was right or best or had the "ring of truth". Do today's believers have the nobility to get beyond their parochial interests to do what is best? Does it cost more than it is worth for us?
In fact, there is a sense in which it is not in many people's best interests to do so. If we standardized, what would be the value of so many trying to churn out more and more translations.

Follow-up on what could be done today

As I think more about it, maybe there are some criteria we could apply to translation and translations that would give them some sort of standardized stamp of credibility at least. What makes a translation credible? We ought to be able to grade translations on their "literalness" or to what degree they are "sense translations" or have been paraphrased with specific examples. There are certainly examples in many translations also of theological bias (for instance, the decision to transliterate "baptize" than to translate "immerse", in many versions, even in the KJV).
In terms of texts, I think the manner in which texts have been classified are not clear for many and there is a need to step back from some of the dogmatism on all sides of the textual arguments. I don't want to go beyond my very limited understanding (I'm also raising a family and working a job and I'm 15+ years out of school). To me, anyone who says they know which text is the preserved text is overconfident. But I don't necessarily trust the work of the textual critic either.

Aaron Blumer wrote: What if

Aaron Blumer wrote:
What if some archaeologist digging around in Turkey or Rome or Jerusalem finds a well preserved manuscript dating solidly to, say, 2nd century, that matches TR perfectly? Of course, you'd have to say "Which TR?" but let's suppose it perfectly matches what Erasmus settled on, even with the portions reverse engineered from the Vulgate. What does it do to the debate?

Let's stand that on it's head - what if we tomorrow, for example, found out that all the TR manuscripts were absolutely totally corrupted and worthless? How would that affect our Bibles and our view of preservation?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

An answer is forthcoming...

Aaron,

You had to know this was coming:

Quote:
Over at SharperIron, perhaps the most well-known fundamentalist blog and forum on the internet, the owner/editor, Aaron Blumer, a very decent Christian man, has written an article on preservation. He separates positions on preservation to two, and one of them, what he calls the discrete position, is the one we take. I wouldn't call it the discrete view, nor do I think it should be called that, but it is what Aaron thinks of it. I believe he is being far, far more fair than most on this issue. However, he does not represent our position fully and therefore not accurately either. He references our book, but what he writes doesn't seem to have interacted with it much (in the comment section, you will see that Aaron hasn't looked at our book---ooops!). I will be answering his post here at my blog.... ([URL=http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2010/01/heads-up-on-preservation-art... Kent Brandenburg[/URL ])

It will be interesting to see his response.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

The book

I actually would like to have a good look at Kent's book. I actually didn't even know it existed until just before the article was scheduled to post, but I knew what Kent's views were, so thought it would be good to include a reference to it so folks could take a look if they want to get details on that view.

It does seem that "discrete" is overly obscure word. Didn't realize that. FWIW...

Merriam Webster wrote:
Main Entry: dis·crete
Pronunciation: \dis-ˈkrēt, ˈdis-ˌ\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin discretus
Date: 14th century

1 : constituting a separate entity : individually distinct
2 a : consisting of distinct or unconnected elements : noncontinuous b : taking on or having a finite or countably infinite number of values
synonyms see distinct

— dis·crete·ly adverb
— dis·crete·ness noun


Not to be confused with "discreet" (which has to do with being cautious and wise... though I did initially have that spelling in there once, it's a different word entirely)
Given definition 2 there, it's not the best word for that reason also.... though def1 fits what I meant quite well.
[br ]
I'd be happy to hear some suggestions for a better word that captures the idea of "in one place, distinct and identifiable."

link

Here's a link where you can buy his book. It tries to make an exegetical case for "perfect preservation". I remain unconvinced but it is one of the best books out there making this case.

[URL=http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/04/you.html http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/04/you.html[/URL ]

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer wrote: I'd be

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I'd be happy to hear some suggestions for a better word that captures the idea of "in one place, distinct and identifiable."

I don't know if that is the best term to describe this view, however. They view it as something which has always been accessible throughout time, due to God's miraculous preservation. "Discrete" tends to bring up the image of re-inspiration or some second work to get some wholly new thing. Advocates of TR Onlyism, such as the authors of the book Kent edited, don't think it is a new thing. They think in time God brought the right words to get used in the creation of the TR and in the printing of the English Bible and Greek TRs. But that all along the true words were available to God's people in good manuscripts that they had access to (not that there was one clear cut copy with all the words in that one copy). Maybe "complete" preservation would work, to convey preservation of the complete Word of God as being discernible in its entirety. Or their own term "perfect" preservation.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

"Thou Shalt Keep Them"

Bob Hayton wrote:
Here's a link where you can buy his book. It tries to make an exegetical case for "perfect preservation". I remain unconvinced but it is one of the best books out there making this case.

[URL=http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/04/you.html http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/04/you.html[/URL ]


My view on this book is similar to Bob's. I got the first edition (I think it was 2003), and since I was trying to understand the direction my then church had taken (becoming strongly KJVO from a position of acceptance of and friendliness to translations like the NASB) over the years prior to when this book was published, I read it twice thoroughly, the second time taking notes. I liked the approach -- taking the argument almost entirely from the scriptures. Since my pastor at that time was one of the contributors to that book, it gave me even more reason to want to read and understand it.

Ultimately, though, it didn't convince me either. For an example of one of what I thought to be weak arguments, in the chapter on Ps. 12:6-7, it presents the view that "words" are referred to by "them" because of a special case of gender disagreement in the Hebrew. Even though there were other examples of gender disagreement pointed out, and compared favorably with this passage, there was no clear evidence presented that such gender disagreement HAD to be in play in these verses, such that "them" could not refer to men. This is just a single example.

Similar to what Aaron presented above, though, with or without Ps. 12:6-7 being on the side of preservation, I still believe in a doctrine of preservation anyway, but not in the sense of perfect preservation in a single manuscript. If you are one of those for whom this topic is either very interesting or something that is currently affecting your church or fellowship with other churches, you should probably read it to fully understand the side of the perfect preservationists. However, in the end, I thought "Thou Shalt Keep Them" still fell short of convincing me that their view is the correct one.

Dave Barnhart

Bob I think you bring up a

Bob I think you bring up a good point. I know Dave Cloud (and I assume Kent B.) would not want to be associated with KJVO, of the Ruckman/Riplinger variety. I actually read a suggestion once of distinguishing them from KJVO (who say the KJV is superior to the Greek and Hebrew) by being called Preservationists.

We have to remember that much of their understanding of the issue is that Satan and is demons are real and that there is and has been throughout history attempts to destroy humanity (in the garden), the nation of Israel, the line of the Messiah, the Messiah himself, the church, and the Word of God. Therefore there is not just an idea of God preserving the Bible so that it exists, but that it exists in a reliable, dependable, uncorrupted fashion. So I believe one of the disconnects between the different sides in the debate are due to fundamentally different worldviews. In what I have read from the perspective of textual critics, they talk alot about text and methodologies but not so much about the spiritual dimension of the whole thing. The question if the Bible and preservation is not simply a historical curiosity, it is not all academic.
I would like to see better distinction between the different factions of what is called KJVO because I believe there are some very reasonable people making reasonable points that should be taken seriously, but they often get lumped in with others that are more extreme.
I have also observed there is a part of the worldview of various KJV Only that see themselves as the pure ones, the holdouts who are the remnant, who are faithful to God while the rest of Christianity apostatizes. The use of other bibles is a litmus test issue for many of whether or not you have drunken the devils kool-aide.

Jason E. Schaitel MCP

co-founder FrancisSchaefferStudies.org

student at Veritas School of Theology

schaitel, Assuming we are to

schaitel,

Assuming we are to factor in the reality of demonic devises (and I have no doubt that at every turn they have sought to dismantle, corrupt and influence in some negative fashion the perpetuity of Scripture) along with the necessary academic or scholarly issues, how would those holding to a form of KJVO you describe as "very reasonable people making reasonable points" respond to the application of this principle when examining the translational shortcomings of the KJV?

Could not those pointing out some of the translational issues say just as well, "Look at the evidence that it is not as trustworthy and demonic forces have obviously introduced some obfuscation and inaccuracies and therefore it certainly cannot be the preserved Word of God"? The problem I see is that regardless of the validity of the spiritual considerations regarding subterfuge by demonic forces, it does not negate the translational issues with the KJV (and if this question is determined to be out of bounds regarding the special rules for discussion then may it be pardoned and moved to its appropriate location with the hope of it still being answered).

As a former KJVO....

Schaitel,

You bring up an excellent point yourself, here. As a former KJVO, the loose, flippant treatment of KJV Onlyists coupled with not much effort to distinguish between varying degrees and types of KJV onlyists, put me off. When I read James White's book on the issue in Bible College, the fact that he picked Riplinger and Ruckman as two of his three KJV Only examples really gave me cause to doubt his story. Taking care in distinguishing what the reasoned KJV view actually is, is at least a charitable duty, and at best a tactic which may win some to our side of the debate.

This is not to downplay Alex's valid point that Satanic activity could be posited as behind either side of the Bible debate. But where preservation comes into play here is worth noting. Since God promised to preserve His Word, they argue, why should we expect to find it buried in the sand 1800 years later? Wouldn't we rather expect to see it in the hands of God's people down through the ages? And from a certain vantage point, the TR would have a good claim to being that revered traditionally used text, which would seem to be how we think God would preserve His Word.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Attacks on the word

Interesting that someone mentioned Satan's attack on the word of God in the garden. I would agree that the Devil attacked God's word specifically (though it was his way of attacking God Himself and assaulting faith in Him). And we would be foolish to suppose the Devil has gotten out of the word attacking business. But when we look at Satan's attacks on God's word in Scripture, how much of the time was it word in written form he went after? In the garden for example, what he attacked was their memory of what God had spoken... and the meaning of what He had spoken.

Given the rarity of written copies in the hands of God's people over the millennia, I have to think Satan's attacks on the word have more often taken this form, rather than the copying and "transmission" process. (The incident in Jeremiah 36 with the scroll is so memorable because it is so unusual, among other reasons.)

So the "Satan is attacking the word" argument, while true, works for both sides because he is not focused on destroying written word but also more than willing to attack the word unwritten and attack people's understanding and memory of the word. Of course, I'm among those who believe we do not have "unwritten word of God" today, but it is possible to argue that the devil is attacking the word by encouraging folks to use a translation they are more likely to misunderstand (or not read) or by steering them toward a text that seems pure but is not.

I'm not saying exclusive use of KJV is the devil's work to attack the word of God at the level of understanding, but I'm pointing out that this line of argument doesn't work exclusively as a "attacks on the pure text" argument.

About variations of KJVO I'll echo the call for more careful distinctions. It would be a great help for the cause of peaceful coexistence (if not unity) if terms for the various flavors of KJVO could be developed that each group would be willing to own, it could at least make it possible for rhetoric on the topic to be more fair, less sloppy, and ultimately more helpful.
But we still have a fair number of well meaning people using "KJVO" as a term for all the variations and associating them with the most extreme elemements... which just makes alot of people angry where that could have been avoided.

Maybe I'll write a piece on "What kind of KJVO?" and interact w/some folks to try to get some good handles. Though, so far, my handle-making work isn't going super great (as with "discrete preservation")... but at least the view represented hasn't found the term offensive.

Canonization: A Part of Preservation

Quote:
Aaron quoted Dr. Sam Schnaiter and Mr. Ron Tagliapietra:
"What is less clear is how God is preserving the Bible. Though the Bible describes a little of the process of inspiration, it does not describe in detail the process of preservation. Since God also chose in His providence not to preserve the autographs [originals ], it takes more effort to understand the process. (Schnaiter and Tagliapietra, 33)"
Whereas it is true that Scripture does not detail the process of preservation, it is not necessary that we understand it to believe it. We accept it as what E. F. Hills calls "the logic of faith." Few Fundamentalists, regardless of one's stance on the contemporary preservation debate, would contest the present canon (i.e. the 66 books comprising the Bible) as the complete and final canon of Scripture. Yet, the canon has not always been so firm; one only needs to read a little church history. And Scripture does not spell out the process of canonization either.

Let us go a step further and view canonization as part of the overall process of preservation. After all, it is apparent that God had to preserve the larger parts (i.e. the books) in order to preserve the smaller pieces (i.e. words). Thus, if we can have certainty in having all the inspired books culled from among the many spurious epistles, it is perfectly reasonable to posit that we can have certitude as to the words and meaning as well. Now comes the rub. The accepted academic pabulum is that the canon was established by church councils. I would strongly contest this on several grounds that I have neither time nor space to develop here. Suffice it to say that a casual perusal of church history will show that the canon was already pretty well established and accepted within the believing church, not necessarily the established church, by the time of the Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397). My argument is simply that God preserved the canon through the acceptance and use by the believing church, not the determination of some ecclesiastical gathering. God preserves Scripture through His believing church although the precise means are not, and need not be, apparent. It is only necessary that we believe and trust in His preservation. If we must have rationalistic proof (i.e. using the methods of scientific rationalism), then it is not of faith.

Finally, there is the question of the original autographs. This human (rationalistic) theory, without any Scriptural basis for inference, muddies the water considerably. Foremost, it assumes that only the original autographs are inspired. Would not an exact word-for-word, letter-for-letter copy be inspired? After all, what constituted inspiration? The papyrus? The writing from an Apostle's hand (Paul sometimes used an amanuensis)? Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume a few competent copyists made some perfect copies, especially of the shorter epistles. Would not these perfect copies, although perhaps no longer extant, be considered inspired? In such light, the original autograph theory seems a little silly and trite.

Of course, there is the question of meaning. If we had the original autographs today, would they mean the same to modern scholars as to the original recipients who read and spoke Koine Greek? Precise meanings communicated through written English by native speakers today is difficult enough, much less a two thousand year old language. Languages change with time and culture. Can we be sure that scholars have correctly recreated the Koine Greek language? Brother Andrew, the Dutch Bible smuggler, tells how he learned English from his teacher in Holland. As he was leaving for England, his teacher admitted that she had never been to England and had never heard English spoken. All her English was academic. When Brother Andrew arrived in England, he found that he could not understand the language. No scholar that I know has heard or spoken Koine Greek in its cultural context.

In sum, how God preserved is not important but to believe that He did preserve is. There are many things that we don't understand and some we do not need to understand. God has reserved some things unto Himself (Deut. 29:29). We possess what we need to know for "life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)" The problem is that we do not act in accord with what we do know.

There's something I can agree with....

RPittman said things far better than what I said above, but I think we are making the same point. I agree that usage by the believing church is a far better way of establishing what has the "ring of truth" than the vast majority of the arguments heard today. I also agree that we do not need to know (and indeed don't know) the exact process by which Scripture is preserved. It is oversimplification to call it the "church history" argument. It is how what was and was not correct was sorted out through usage.
I'm not KJVO and in fact received my textual criticism instruction at Central. Through all that it was not any clearer to me how I should know what is and is not the proper text and not have it be subjective. I do wish we could settle down enough to make a translation that deals in modern language that we all can agree on.

Bob Hayton

Bob Hayton wrote:
Schaitel,

You bring up an excellent point yourself, here. As a former KJVO, the loose, flippant treatment of KJV Onlyists coupled with not much effort to distinguish between varying degrees and types of KJV onlyists, put me off. When I read James White's book on the issue in Bible College, the fact that he picked Riplinger and Ruckman as two of his three KJV Only examples really gave me cause to doubt his story. Taking care in distinguishing what the reasoned KJV view actually is, is at least a charitable duty, and at best a tactic which may win some to our side of the debate.

I think one should give White a break. Sociologists describe this kind of thing, and it's very common, not something I'm inclined to reproach someone for. Recognition of distinctions in complex systems depends on ingression in the system and familiarity with one's whereabouts in the system. Fundamentalists, for example, tend to have no social or theoretical interaction with "liberals." So "liberal" is a very clear, meaningful category for them. But, almost any "liberal" could justifiedly take umbrage at the lack of distinctions Fundamentalists make in calling so and so a "liberal." Similarly, but in the opposite direction, usually only people who have been personally involved in certain social environments in Fundamentalism become away of the minute distinctions KJV types make among themselves. These are very important to them, but they seem invisible or utterly inconsequential to an outsider (this whole process is that of "fractalization," which has been beautifully described in Andrew Abbott's Chaos of Disciplines, if anyone is interested).

Depending on how scholarly something is supposed to be, I am more or less willing to regard someone as blameworthy for not attending to these minute distinctions, but I think one could argue that White was not working at the level of ingression that would require him to parse all of these things; someone internal to the debate would be the person to do that.

Finally, a quick note on topic. There is a fundamental ontological problem that one has to face in thinking about the inscripturated Word of God, viz. what exactly is the Word of God identical to?

If only the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts on which it was written count as the Word of God, then we necessarily have never hard complete access to the word of God, and every translation involves a distortion, to some degree, of the Word of God. Even perfect preservation views could not help this position - the logical outcome is something like the Islamic doctrine of the Q'uran, which is eternal, immutable, and unstranslatable.

The only sensible alternative to the above view (which is wrong and borders, if not actually is, idolatrous) is to identifiy the Word of God with the meaning expressed in Scripture, which means one could translate it into a conceivably infinite number of languages, cultures, and time-periods, and always have the Word of God in its entirety. If one denies this view, one has a real problem, one much bigger than fuss over English translation. If one affirms this view or a variant (which most of do in our practice and our refusal to say that translations give us "less" of the Word of God than the originals), then the whole translation issue becomes an entirely different issue with different priorities and concerns, and the KJV issue becomes relatively trivial.

But the implications of this view are deep and closely related to insights in missiology that have only recently become prevalent. And that involves other, even more controversial, topics that I am not going to touch.

church usage?

RPittman wrote:
My argument is simply that God preserved the canon through the acceptance and use by the believing church, not the determination of some ecclesiastical gathering. God preserves Scripture through His believing church although the precise means are not, and need not be, apparent. It is only necessary that we believe and trust in His preservation. If we must have rationalistic proof (i.e. using the methods of scientific rationalism), then it is not of faith.

Steve Newman wrote:
I agree that usage by the believing church is a far better way of establishing what has the "ring of truth" than the vast majority of the arguments heard today. I also agree that we do not need to know (and indeed don't know) the exact process by which Scripture is preserved. It is oversimplification to call it the "church history" argument. It is how what was and was not correct was sorted out through usage.

Those who would follow Pittman's reasoning claim this whole debate is much, much simpler than this thread would make it out to be. All you do is accept that perfect preservation of God's Word is promised (or demanded by the very fact of verbal inspiration). Then you look at the usage of the believing church to find which texts or text-forms should be assumed to be the preserved Text.

The problem with this should be apparent. What exactly constitutes "usage" and what should we decide is the "believing church"? There was a believing Aramaic-speaking church. Somewhere along the way they died out or became much less influential. We have found some Aramaic Scriptures dating from he 3rd to 6th Centuries. Should we allow this "usage" to influence our determination? Or what about the pervasive use in the West of Latin? And the acceptance of the Latin Vulgate? How about the prevalence of Byzantine Greek as used by the Eastern Orthodox church? Are they "believing"? What about other church's usage?

When we come to the invention of the printing press, the Vulgate was spurned in favor of going back to the source -- namely the Greek New Testament. But what Greek New Testament was available? The Greek used in the Western Church prior to its use of the Vulgate and contemporary with its use of "Old Latin"? Or the Greek texts used in the African church which produced such theological giants as Augustine and Athanasius? Or the Greek texts that Origen took with him to Syria?

As it happens, Erasmus threw together a Greek New Testament in his haste to get it to the press. His focus was really on the revision of his Latin translation, and he wasn't too concerned about the Greek New Testament. Once in print, the demand was huge, as ministers and scholars wanted to see the Greek New Testament and study from it. At the time there was only basically one Greek New Testament text available, as editors all worked off of Erasmus' text revising it slightly and keeping presses running to supply the great demand. Now this "usage" of the Greek New Testament caled the TR, was it a determinative kind of "usage"? As in the believing church of the time intentionally rejected other forms of the Greek New Testament? Or was it a usage of what was available at the time?

As the church and believing scholars like Beza, Mill and Bengel, matured in the Reformation faith and had less of a battle for survival on their hands, they turned studying the particulars of the Greek New Testament again, and started including variant readings into the NT text. Eventually Lachman would produce an alternate Greek text based on what were widely considered superior Greek manuscripts. Tregelles and Tischendorf led the way in looking for more Greek manuscripts and we come to today where the believing church largely uses the modern Greek Text of Nestle-Aland. But today, as in the Reformation era, the production of translations from the Greek text is not enslaved to every textual decision by the text editors. Just as Luther departed from the TR in places in his translation, the NASB and ESV depart from the modern Greek text in places too, guided by a traditional reverence for certain readings that have attestation.

So if we just limit "usage" to use of the only available printed Greek Text for a couple hundred years, in only one region of the world where it was available, by the church there, we get one story. If we open up to other historical periods and other geographical areas, the picture gets more complicated and it isn't an open-and-shut-case any longer.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Doesn't it come down to one's philsophy of textual criticism?

When we seek to determine what the original manuscripts were, doesn't it come down to one's philosophy of textual criticism?

Personally, I'm of the mind expressed by Alan Cairns in his excellent article on Textual criticism in his Dictionary of Theological Terms.

Quote:
God, who inspired the NT, has providentially preserved its text in the great number of ancient witnesses still available. Over 90% of the NT text is beyond dispute, down to the smallest details. As for the remainder, some 85% of the MSS agree in presenting a common text. The common text is strongly corroborated by the witnesses of ancient versions abd quotations from church fathers and is the authentic representation of the orginal text. Despite the variations in the ancient manuscripts, we may ascertain the authentic reading in every case by following the testimony of the overwhelming majority of the ancient witnesses. This objective approach will establish the traditional text of the NT as the authentic text.

I prefer this to the method used by others (i.e. older is better. etc.) That means I often get shot at from both sides as i hold to the last verses of the Gospel of Mark but have my doubts about I John 5:7.

Thank you for your indulgence. And, BTW, I'm Geneva (1599) Preferred.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Majority

Ron,

I can appreciate your position in the middle. However, when it comes to "majority", we again have to ask, what kind of a majority are we referring to. If we take all pre-printing manuscripts of the Bible in any language, the "majority text" actually is in the minority. There are almost 3 times as many Latin manuscripts as Greek. And when we look at the Greek language only, we need to consider geographies where the texts come from. Since the Byzantine area was the only area in the world that spoke and used Greek as the common language from A.D. 450 up to A.D. 1453, it is to be expected that a majority of Greek texts would hail from Byzantine and be very similar. For a thousand years, both the scholarly texts and the common everyman's Bibles would both be Greek. So every Bible copied in that area would be Greek. Contrast that to other regions where the common Bibles were Latin or Aramaic or Syriac or Gothic or Coptic, etc. In those regions there were some Greek texts used by scholars or monks in universities or monasteries. But the pervasively copied texts would be in other languages. So it isn't really fair to just count up the total of texts we have today and say we'll side with the majority of the Greek. In fact, it wasn't until the ninth or tenth Century, that the majority of Greek manuscripts became Byzantine in nature. And of course by then, it was the large numbers of Eastern Orthodox scriptoriums and monasteries that perpetuated the text in use in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which over the next five to six centuries became the dominant text type, numerically.

For more on this take on "majority" I'd recommend scanning my three part series called [URL=http://kjvodebate.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/majority-rules-fact-or-fictio... "Majority Rules! -- Fact or Fiction?[/URL ] (posted at my group KJV Only Blog).

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Profundity in simplicity?

Quote:
Bob Hayton wrote:
Those who would follow Pittman's reasoning claim this whole debate is much, much simpler than this thread would make it out to be. All you do is accept that perfect preservation of God's Word is promised (or demanded by the very fact of verbal inspiration). Then you look at the usage of the believing church to find which texts or text-forms should be assumed to be the preserved Text.
On the contrary, Bob, my reasoning is much more complex and involved than what you apparently understand it to be. It is difficult, if not impossible, to rigorously develop a complex argument within the context of a forum such as SharperIron. There are several reasons. First, I have only a very limited amount of time that I can devote to writing and posting on this issue in this forum. My life is consumed by other aspects of ministry including teaching, research, writing, etc. Second, the amount of space and time for reading is limited in this venue. Whereas a book has hundreds of pages to be thoughfully perused by the reader at leisure, one's argument on SharperIron must be stated in a few paragraphs to be read by folks on their lunch hour or between tasks. Furthermore, the book author has the time, space, and means (i.e. footnotes, etc.) of providing background, references, and cogent argumentation. Here, it is hit and run with the writer depending on the reader's prior knowledge and ability to make leaps from point to point. Third, lacking the continuity, size and format of a book-length presentation, it is extremely difficult to keep the discussion on track and address the specific points given the give and take nature of posting along with the time intervals between postings.

In light of these difficulties, it is my strategy to offer one, at the most two, points and stick to the points. This appears as simplification. (I would argue that simplication is a plus indicating comprehesion and the reduction of detailed complexity into understandable patterns. Simplification distills confusion into understanding. In fact, complexity may be viewed at a lower cognitive level in the recognition of many details but failing to comprehend and reduce the whole into a recognizable pattern. A good teacher simplifies the confusing morass of details into conprehensible ideas and concepts.) I offered basically two ideas:

  1. Canonization is a part of preservation. If so, we must view the modern context of preservation in much the same light as we do canonization.
  2. The original autograph theory has no Scriptural basis and does not adequately answer certain questions and explain the facts. It was a stop-gap protection by the Princeton theologians, et. al. against the threat of evolutionary refutation of Scripture.

    Behind these two questions, or issues, lie difficult, involved, and serious questions about our understanding of God's sovereignty and working. Now, how do we explain the process of God's working in Joseph's life of using man's intended evil to bring about God's intended good (Genesis 50:20)? How do we explain the process of Romans 8:28? How do we explain the numerous allusions to God using the wicked to accomplish his purpose? Or for that matter, how do we explain the process of inspiration so that the individual vocabularies, styles, etc. of the human writers were preserved, yet God's perfect intent was written? I know of no satisfactory explanation although many have tried and floundered. So, is it unthinkable that God may have used Erasmus, Beza, et. al., although unknown to them and us, to preserve His Scriptures. How do you know? Must our modern scholarship and minds validate what God has done? (Is not this the epistemology of Modernism? We only accept what we can rationally establish.)

    Now, Bob, I have utilized your method of asking unanswerable questions and raising difficulties. This can be done ad infinitum so that arguments become bogged down in details and go nowhere. The best way to explore these issues is to specifically address the points. That is precisely what I ask you to do without suggesting that the writer is a simpleton.

Good question!

Quote:
Bob Hayton asked:
The problem with this should be apparent. What exactly constitutes "usage" and what should we decide is the "believing church"?
Bob, I'm glad you asked this question. The answer was largely apparent in Fundamentalist churches until within recent memory. Without intentional effort, the KJV was the translation of choice. In fact, it dominated the whole of English-speaking culture and language until the later half of the Twentieth Century. Mark Noll, former Wheaton scholar, now Notre Dame, has written an interesting book on the influence of the KJV on English language and culture. How do you explain the dominance of the KJV over its many competitors throughout four centuries? I would be interested to hear.

As for different cultures, the believing churches, as led by the Holy Spirit, will accept and use the Scriptures that are preserved of God. How? Other than the influence of the Holy Spirit upon believers, I don't know and can't answer. From an eclectic position, how do you know which scholar, manuscript theory, or school of thought is the correct one? From your questions, it would seem as if you think preservation demands an universal standard. Not necessarily true.

Reply to Joseph

Joseph, You are quite correct that we should "give White a break". Of course, as a KJV Onlyist, I didn't want to. Reading the book again, I think he did a fairly good job, and his arguments are valid even though he doesn't understand the movement as well as one steeped in it might. You bring up some good points. Still I think it is true that we who do know the movement should take care to represent it well, especially given that misrepresentation will be an excuse by others to ignore any points we bring up.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Joseph wrote: If only the

Joseph wrote:
If only the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts on which it was written count as the Word of God, then we necessarily have never hard complete access to the word of God
Correct. We don't have complete access at that point. However, I don't know of too many people (none actually) who reside in the original texts argument that use the expression "only the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts on which it was written count as the Word of God". This seems to be a significantly flatfooted description of their view regarding the original texts and translations.

Joseph wrote:
and every translation involves a distortion, to some degree, of the Word of God.
Your choice of the word distortion is telling. This categorizes every (your word) translation as lacking fidelity which is not necessarily the case though it may not possess the fullness of what is present in the original languages. Hence the use of the word distortion only really serves to construct a point that does not fairly exist.

One may say, "Sally went to the store" while one might point in the direction she went. Pointing in the truthful direction is not a distortion nor lacking in fidelity due to its imprecision. It is not as precise as the original statement but it is not a distortion.

Joseph wrote:
The only sensible alternative to the above view (which is wrong and borders, if not actually is, idolatrous) is to identifiy the Word of God with the meaning expressed in Scripture, which means one could translate it into a conceivably infinite number of languages, cultures, and time-periods, and always have the Word of God in its entirety. If one denies this view, one has a real problem, one much bigger than fuss over English translation.
The problem with this view is that it is right that we can and should identify the Word of God with the meaning expressed in Scripture but it is idealistic to a grave fault to imagine any two languages possess sufficient equivocations which enable them to convey absolutely what is present in another language.

While it is true that some, maybe most (for the sake of argument), languages possess sufficient development to enable a translation from the original languages that maintains fidelity to meaning and sufficient equivocations are present which will enable the student to learn a great deal of bible doctrine with accuracy, they will not and cannot discover without the help of the language of the originals, all that is present in those texts.

reply to RPittman

I realize there are limitations to what can be discussed in a forum. I also am not saying that everyone takes a simplified take on this. Some do, others like yourself, apparently, don't. I am saying that it is an over-simplification to say it all boils down to what the church has used. Did the church use the best available text or translation? Or did they ratify a particular text or translation through its use of it? And are we only caring about the English speaking church of the last 400 years or other churches in periods before printing (and afterward)? Does the fact that the Chinese church uses a particular Chinese version mean that they are ratifying it as being the best version? I am not aware of a good TR-based translation being available in Chinese. To limit the question to English only, is to ignore God's working in other places. Too often this is what's done (in my opinion) in these debates.

As for how the KJV could have been accepted for so long without rivals, the same could be said of the use of the Latin Vulgate prior to the creation of the Textus Receptus. That was used for 6-800 years without rival. And prior to the Vulgate, the believing church preferred the Greek Septuagint to the Hebrew OT as a basis for translation. This was why Jerome's Latin Vulgate was not immediately adopted by the church. Usage alone can't settle the matter, I would contend. Other factors in this could be the novelty of printing. Once printing was possible, and once a widely accepted (not favoring one particular party in the church like the Geneva Bible did) standard text was printed, it was easier to just go with what they had then to make a new version or revision. Even then there were major revisions done to standardize the text but they only dealt with minor issues of spelling and some errors in the KJV text. The printing served to solidify the text of the KJV and it became accepted as the norm. Other reasons could be given, too.

Anyway, I doubt we'll convince each other in this forum. I was just bringing up some counterpoints to your post.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Matthew 24:35 as Preservation "Proof Text"

It seems that most arguments seeking to present the scriptural basis for preservation will include Matthew 24:35 amongst the "proof" texts. However, every time I examine Matthew 24, I'm struck by what appears to be a gross oversight of the context in which Jesus says it. He's discussing with the disciples at length the details surrounding the tribulation and his return. So when he finally makes the statement that "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away," he appears to be emphasizing the certainty that all these things he just described will take place. I fail to see any connection here to some sort of promise that the inspired words of scripture are going to be preserved on our behalf, but rather, Jesus seems to be emphasizing the certainty of the details surrounding the tribulation and his return.

Thoughts on this anyone?

Steve L wrote: It seems that

Steve L wrote:
It seems that most arguments seeking to present the scriptural basis for preservation will include Matthew 24:35 amongst the "proof" texts. However, every time I examine Matthew 24, I'm struck by what appears to be a gross oversight of the context in which Jesus says it. He's discussing with the disciples at length the details surrounding the tribulation and his return. So when he finally makes the statement that "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away," he appears to be emphasizing the certainty that all these things he just described will take place. I fail to see any connection here to some sort of promise that the inspired words of scripture are going to be preserved on our behalf, but rather, Jesus seems to be emphasizing the certainty of the details surrounding the tribulation and his return.

Thoughts on this anyone?

Bob and I both mentioned this earlier, though not in connection to this verse. Many times in both OT and NT, "word" refers to a specific promise, prophecy, message, etc. In fact, "word of God" usually refers to a specific message rather than a body of canonical literature. We meet the phrase in 1 Samuel 9:27, where Samuel is revealing to Saul "the word of God," and it isn't a parchment copy of the Torah. In the NT, we do find the OT scripture referred to as the word of God (Mark 7:13) , but that is hardly the exclusive referent. Many times it refers to Jesus' own teaching (Luke 5:1); sometimes perhaps specifically the gospel message (Acts 8:14).

So, the word of God is "what God says," and it can refer to the smallest intelligible unit or to the whole canon of Scripture, and oftentimes to revelation that was never canonized. We correctly call the Bible the word of God because God said it; however, it is incorrect to think that "word of God" equals "Bible." When interpreting a singular occurrence of "the word of God," it is proper procedure to look for a plausible narrow referent (a particular message warranted by the context) rather than jump to the conclusion that Jesus or the author suddenly interjected a point of bibliology into his discourse.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Changing the paradigm...............

Bob Hayton wrote:
I realize there are limitations to what can be discussed in a forum. I also am not saying that everyone takes a simplified take on this. Some do, others like yourself, apparently, don't. I am saying that it is an over-simplification to say it all boils down to what the church has used. Did the church use the best available text or translation? Or did they ratify a particular text or translation through its use of it? And are we only caring about the English speaking church of the last 400 years or other churches in periods before printing (and afterward)? Does the fact that the Chinese church uses a particular Chinese version mean that they are ratifying it as being the best version? I am not aware of a good TR-based translation being available in Chinese. To limit the question to English only, is to ignore God's working in other places. Too often this is what's done (in my opinion) in these debates.
Bob, neither I nor anyone else can definitively fill in the details. As I intimated elsewhere, God's means of working behind the scenes is an enigma although we can reasonably believe and see his overall handiwork. An illustration from microscopy may help clarify my point. There are two factors in using the light microscope--magnification and resolution. Magnification has to do with increasing the size of the object and resolution has to do with seeing the details. Many times, when the magnification is increased in an effort to see the very small details, the result is just a large blob because the resolution is decreased as the magnification increases. This may be analogous to the preservation issue. We believe and can see the overall preservation of Scripture but the whole issue becomes out-of-focus when we try to resolve the details. The matter of the KJV being God's Word in the English language must be understood in the whole cultural and language context of the KJV and the Believing Church.

Quote:
As for how the KJV could have been accepted for so long without rivals, the same could be said of the use of the Latin Vulgate prior to the creation of the Textus Receptus. That was used for 6-800 years without rival. And prior to the Vulgate, the believing church preferred the Greek Septuagint to the Hebrew OT as a basis for translation. This was why Jerome's Latin Vulgate was not immediately adopted by the church. Usage alone can't settle the matter, I would contend. Other factors in this could be the novelty of printing. Once printing was possible, and once a widely accepted (not favoring one particular party in the church like the Geneva Bible did) standard text was printed, it was easier to just go with what they had then to make a new version or revision. Even then there were major revisions done to standardize the text but they only dealt with minor issues of spelling and some errors in the KJV text. The printing served to solidify the text of the KJV and it became accepted as the norm. Other reasons could be given, too.
Again, this is just arguing about which color goes within the lines. I am proposing a paradigm shift. Yes, I'm challenging some basic presuppositions that have been long accepted in Fundamentalist circles. These presuppositions are grounded in a Modernist epistemology (i.e. scientific rationalism, Modernity, etc.) that Fundamentalism has accepted and adopted. Yet, Post-modernism (I am NOT a post-modernist; please don't try to hang this label around my neck) has thoroughly exposed the bankruptcy of Modernism (i.e. Modernity) and its epistemology. Now, Fundamentalists still try to establish a rational basis for Christianity using this discredited methodology. Using this rationalistic methodology, the assumption is that preservation refers to a single, specific text in an identical word-for-word format. Not necessarily so. Instead, I will aver that God's Word is faithfully preserved in a succession or family of individual texts within a cultural and language context by the Believing Church as guided collectively by the Holy Spirit. This is NOT to agree with Dr. Schnaiter that God's Word is faithfully preserved collectively in all the manuscripts in the world. There are spurious copies just as there were false epistles.

Quote:
Anyway, I doubt we'll convince each other in this forum. I was just bringing up some counterpoints to your post.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob

I don't think we are as interested in convincing one another as debating issues to the knowing of truth. You most certainly can easily find counterpoints to any of my arguments. This accomplishes little. Ignore all of my other points or take them for what they're worth; I don't care. However, I am interested in hearing your opinions on my questions. Please answer or comment on the following question:

  • If we had the original autographs, would we understand them today as they did in the cultural and language context 2000 years ago where Koine Greek was the spoken and written language?

Autographa

For what it's worth at this point, I've been reading Thou Shalt Keep Them edited by Kent Brandenburg, which is as thorough a case for perfect preservation as I've seen to date.
But even Kent's book does not confuse where inspiration begins and ends. 2 Tim.3:16, 2 Peter 1:21 are clear about what is inspired. It is "prophecy" in written form. The assertion that there is no concept of originals can't get off the ground because there is also no concept of inspiration extending beyond the original act on "men moved by the Holy Spirit."

the autographa

I hold that inspiration was specifically God's moving on the human authors of Scripture and so superintending their work that the result is God's very word, in the style and thought of the human author. The resulting autograph was the inerrant, inspired Word of God. By extension, and I believe we do see this in Scripture, faithful copies of the autograph are considered "inspired" to the degree they are faithful to the inspired original. The message is inspired, the original words are "inspired words". But the copy is not superintended by God in a direct way as were the autographs.

I'm not sure I follow exactly Pittman's point in this question:

RPittman wrote:
If we had the original autographs, would we understand them today as they did in the cultural and language context 2000 years ago where Koine Greek was the spoken and written language?

It may be to say that if we agree we wouldn't understand the autographs in an equivalent way, that this is why God chose to preserve His Word in other language families like English. This would presume we could know the English of 1611 in an equivalent way today, which I don't think we all would equally be able to do. Furthermore, there is a loss in translation which is inevitable, and this is why the believing Church has always prized the study of Greek and Hebrew by its ministers.

This does bring up a good point, however. The differences over understanding the Scripture are bigger and weightier than the differences between competing conservative Bible versions. If you study the history of doctrine and doctrinal controversies, you will find few doctrinal fights decided or spurred on by textual variants. Invariably we disagree in our hermeneutics and exegesis over portions of Scripture that are agreed upon and virtually identical between say the KJV or the NASB. Textual variants do matter and are important to study, but they are not the make it or break it factor. The fact that the believing church has differing interpretations yet remains orthodox on the central cardinal doctrines, gives us hope that competing manuscripts and versions also remain orthodox in a non-threatening way.

I would say we wouldn't be able to infallibly interpret and understand the autographs. We would be prone to worshiping them, possibly -- which (in God's wisdom) may be one reason they weren't preserved for us.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Preservation of a received text is reasonable

Bob Hayton wrote:
I hold that inspiration was specifically God's moving on the human authors of Scripture and so superintending their work that the result is God's very word, in the style and thought of the human author. The resulting autograph was the inerrant, inspired Word of God. By extension, and I believe we do see this in Scripture, faithful copies of the autograph are considered "inspired" to the degree they are faithful to the inspired original. The message is inspired, the original words are "inspired words". But the copy is not superintended by God in a direct way as were the autographs.
We are in substantial agreement except possibly for the last sentence. I am not comfortable with the word choice of "direct way," which almost seems to connote a kind of dictation theory. Rather, I understand the inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit to be beyond the consciousness and conscious effort of the human writer (II Peter 1:21). IMHO, this is neither direct nor indirect influence but it is a third means beyond the realm of ordinary human experience. Basically, I tend to agree with Van Til that our knowledge is analogical to God's knowledge and there is no common human experience analogous to this. Furthermore, other than one's own rational reasoning, which of necessity must make a few leaps and bounds, I do not see how one can limit inspiration to the original autographs. How does one know?

Quote:
I'm not sure I follow exactly Pittman's point in this question:
RPittman wrote:
If we had the original autographs, would we understand them today as they did in the cultural and language context 2000 years ago where Koine Greek was the spoken and written language?

It may be to say that if we agree we wouldn't understand the autographs in an equivalent way, that this is why God chose to preserve His Word in other language families like English. This would presume we could know the English of 1611 in an equivalent way today, which I don't think we all would equally be able to do. Furthermore, there is a loss in translation which is inevitable, and this is why the believing Church has always prized the study of Greek and Hebrew by its ministers.

This does bring up a good point, however. The differences over understanding the Scripture are bigger and weightier than the differences between competing conservative Bible versions. If you study the history of doctrine and doctrinal controversies, you will find few doctrinal fights decided or spurred on by textual variants. Invariably we disagree in our hermeneutics and exegesis over portions of Scripture that are agreed upon and virtually identical between say the KJV or the NASB. Textual variants do matter and are important to study, but they are not the make it or break it factor. The fact that the believing church has differing interpretations yet remains orthodox on the central cardinal doctrines, gives us hope that competing manuscripts and versions also remain orthodox in a non-threatening way.

I would say we wouldn't be able to infallibly interpret and understand the autographs. We would be prone to worshiping them, possibly -- which (in God's wisdom) may be one reason they weren't preserved for us.

Can we agree that language is culturally dependent? If so, can we accurately and definitively know and understand the language from a distance of time and space without experiencing the influence of the culture? Does vicariously viewing the culture through the eyes of writers give us the knowledge and feel of the culture and language or does it simply convey the perceptions of the author? The culturally-dependent problems should be readily apparent from native and non-native speakers of English. If so, how can we suppose that scholars working without primary sources and using a scant smattering of extant secondary sources of whatever origin can reconstruct the original primary sources complete with the faint inferences and slight nuances of meaning? This is analogous to the evolutionary reconstruction of complete skeletons, even whole races of man, from a few widely scattered bone fragments.

IMHO, it is more reasonable to posit the transmission of inspired texts within the Believing Church, which serves as the Divine repository of Holy Writ. This view emphasizes the concept of a "received text" preserved by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the Believing Church as opposed to the establishmentarian church. The inspired, intended meaning of the Scriptures is preserved through both the words and the orthodox doctrine, teaching, practice, and interpretation of the Believing Church. (I expect an objection based on the variants. As they say in court, the variants are immaterial and irrelevant. Although often assumed, no one has reasonably established that slight variations break inspiration. It is begging the question.) The concept of a "received text" embodies something more than a word-for-word view, which, taken alone, is culturally dependent. There are cults, such as Christian Science, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, et. al., who purportedly accept the words of Scripture but they define these words within their own religious subculture (i.e. paradigm--Perhaps we should use paradigm instead of culture, which speaks to a larger, general context. Can we say that the words of Scripture are paradigmatic or do they exist independently in any context or even in a vacuum?)

The concept of a "received text" is a reasonable position accepted by faith in a preserved text, but it is not a rationalistic position as is modern textual criticism. One must wonder why some of the early Fundamentalists, as well as many modern Fundamentalist, vigorously rejected and fought the scientific rationalism of evolution and the Higher Criticism but they embraced the Lower Criticism (i.e. textual criticism) based on the same methodology. If the Higher Criticism could not reconstruct and distill the essence of pure religion (i.e. uncorrupted, original Christianity as evolved from the Hebrew religion and surrounding cultures), why do we trust the same methodology to reconstruct and restore the original texts?

An existing inspired Scripture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
For what it's worth at this point, I've been reading Thou Shalt Keep Them edited by Kent Brandenburg, which is as thorough a case for perfect preservation as I've seen to date.
But even Kent's book does not confuse where inspiration begins and ends. 2 Tim.3:16, 2 Peter 1:21 are clear about what is inspired. It is "prophecy" in written form. The assertion that there is no concept of originals can't get off the ground because there is also no concept of inspiration extending beyond the original act on "men moved by the Holy Spirit."{emphasis added}

Aaron, I respectfully disagree. You need to support your assertion. Unless, you are willing to make a referent difference between the "holy Scriptures" (ιερα γραμματα) in II Timothy 3:15 and the "all Scripture" (πασα γραφη) in II Timothy 3:16, then inspiration did extend to a present copy of the Scriptures, probably in translation (i.e. The Septuagint). On the other hand, I can find no support whatsoever that Paul was writing about original autographs, which were no longer extant. Whereas one may say there is "no concept of inspiration extending beyond the original act," it is hard to envision Paul speaking of a nonexistent inspired original when he makes present application founded on inspiration. The dots don't connect.

RPittman wrote:Aaron, I

RPittman wrote:

Aaron, I respectfully disagree. You need to support your assertion. Unless, you are willing to make a referent difference between the "holy Scriptures" (ιερα γραμματα) in II Timothy 3:15 and the "all Scripture" (πασα γραφη) in II Timothy 3:16, then inspiration did extend to a present copy of the Scriptures, probably in translation (i.e. The Septuagint). On the other hand, I can find no support whatsoever that Paul was writing about original autographs, which were no longer extant. Whereas one may say there is "no concept of inspiration extending beyond the original act," it is hard to envision Paul speaking of a nonexistent inspired original when he makes present application founded on inspiration. The dots don't connect.

This is a good and important point. The authors of Scripture, like everyone in the early church, had no interest whatsoever in the "original manuscripts," as evidenced in the practically canonical status the Septuagint held in the early church. Even Augustine, for example, was very reluctant about Jerome's project to dispense with the much beloved Septuagint (and the so-called Old Latin Bible(s)), given its traditional status. Indeed, Jerome's Vulgate, the first scholarly attempt to produce an OT translation faithful to all the known Hebrew manuscripts, took roughly four-hundred years before it was well received.

Conservative scholars (e.g. Silva) are obviously aware of these problems (e.g. the Septaguint differs dramatically in some areas from the original texts, not the least of which differences are a longer version of Jeremiah), but I don't think they are well-taken account of in theological discussions of inerrancy, inspiration, etc. among most conservatives.

The "received text" proponents have the virtue of consistency: churches have always been conservative in their reaction to new, more (professedly - and often actually) faithful translations (e.g. Jerome again is a good example - very hostile reactions to the Vulgate all around), so their advocacy of the Textus Receptus is traditional, in the sense that it eschews the newer, more critical work in text-criticism and translation.

Exegesis or esisgesis?

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Your choice of the word distortion is telling. This categorizes every (your word) translation as lacking fidelity which is not necessarily the case though it may not possess the fullness of what is present in the original languages. Hence the use of the word distortion only really serves to construct a point that does not fairly exist.

One may say, "Sally went to the store" while one might point in the direction she went. Pointing in the truthful direction is not a distortion nor lacking in fidelity due to its imprecision. It is not as precise as the original statement but it is not a distortion.

The problem with this view is that it is right that we can and should identify the Word of God with the meaning expressed in Scripture but it is idealistic to a grave fault to imagine any two languages possess sufficient equivocations which enable them to convey absolutely what is present in another language.

While it is true that some, maybe most (for the sake of argument), languages possess sufficient development to enable a translation from the original languages that maintains fidelity to meaning and sufficient equivocations are present which will enable the student to learn a great deal of bible doctrine with accuracy, they will not and cannot discover without the help of the language of the originals, all that is present in those texts.

One of the objections to an inspired preserved text is the difficulty in conveying an accurate meaning in translation. On the one hand, it is fairly easy to translate the description of a simple physical action such as "The boy threw the ball." On the other hand, the subtle interaction of human relationships laden with emotion and connotation is difficult. So is theological language and concepts. However, much of Scripture is narrative and meaning is contained in action rather than nuances of words. Scripture is down-to-earth and practical as pertaining to "life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)." Philosophical and theological terms are minimal. Even the theological terms may have theological import only because of the load assigned by academicians. Greek and Hebrew scholars plumb every word for any nuance or subtlety of meaning with the ardor of Bible code fanatics looking for some esoteric meaning hidden from a normal reader. The result, IMHO, is semantic overload. The question is how much is God's intended meaning or how much is the accommodation to the human writer's style and vocabulary or how much is the scholar's imagination? Also, perhaps academic language study has attained a life of its own so that a grid of language theory is imposed upon Scripture. Could it be that we make translation more difficult than what it ought to be? Do the problems exist in conveying the meaning of the text or do they exist in our minds and methods?

inspiration of copies?

RPittman wrote:
Bob Hayton wrote:
...But the copy is not superintended by God in a direct way as were the autographs.
We are in substantial agreement except possibly for the last sentence. I am not comfortable with the word choice of "direct way," which almost seems to connote a kind of dictation theory. Rather, I understand the inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit to be beyond the consciousness and conscious effort of the human writer (II Peter 1:21). IMHO, this is neither direct nor indirect influence but it is a third means beyond the realm of ordinary human experience. Basically, I tend to agree with Van Til that our knowledge is analogical to God's knowledge and there is no common human experience analogous to this. Furthermore, other than one's own rational reasoning, which of necessity must make a few leaps and bounds, I do not see how one can limit inspiration to the original autographs. How does one know?

I think in a sense you are just dressing up a second-inspiration or re-inspiration view here. The act of inspiration was limited to "holy men of God", the apostles and prophets who authored Scripture. Their writings are inspired, and when copied accurately the copies are derivatively inspired. The act of copying Scripture is not the same as the act of authoring Scripture. The Spirit's direct role is only seen in the latter. The former falls under God's providential control of human history. At stake in this discussion is how exactly Scripture teaches that this inspired body of words and documents is to be preserved. Just as some churches in some places obviously accepted non-canonical Scriptures, so some likely accept non-original words. It's obvious and quite apparent that the reception of canonical books is far easier of a matter than the reception of the exactly correct words and spelling of those words contained in the books. Likewise it is much more important to accept the correct books, than it is to receive certain passages or readings in those books. Thus we can trust God's providential directing of history would more surely work through His Church to assure the canonical books were received by the Church (although some difference of opinion still exists among those who claim the name Christian). To assume that a body of manuscripts received by the Church which has the presence of many textual variants is equal to the product of God's direct inspiration of the original Scriptures is bordering on the absurd in my view. Scripture attests to its error-free state when given from God. The copies of the manuscripts speak to the opposite.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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